Atlanta Hawks: Bogdan Bogdanovic’s new role is elevating his game

Dec 26, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) brings the ball up court during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 26, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) brings the ball up court during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

Bogdan Bogdanovic wears the same Kobe 5 Proto “Bruce Lee” shoes in every Atlanta Hawks game. He’s a simple man.

In the beginning of the season, the Hawks were using Bogdanovic as a simple man as well.

Coming from the Sacramento Kings, he was known as a three-level scorer that can be a secondary playmaker. If you watch the first few games of this season, Bogdanovic was being used strictly as a spot-up shooter.

During that time, Bogdanovic was coming off the bench and still getting acclimated to the “free-flowing offense”. He was eventually inserted into the starting lineup, but soon after he suffered a knee fracture that kept him sidelined for a long period. By the time he returned, Pierce had just been fired and McMillan had taken over the reins as interim head coach.

Bogdan Bogdanovic’s new role with the Atlanta Hawks is elevating his game

After his injury in January, I wrote a piece about how the Hawks would miss him while he was out. They missed his spot-up shooting indeed, but that was all that he was offering at the time.

Last week in an interview with The Athletic (paywall), Bogdanovic explained the two different coaching styles between Lloyd Pierce and Nate McMillan. Pierce’s coaching style was more of a free game offense, which is why you didn’t see many plays being run for him, or any other player for that matter. Luckily, the spacing that the Hawks created allowed for Bogdanovic to get open just by standing in one spot.

In McMillan’s offense, Bogdanovic is able to be his true self, and it’s elevated his game over the past few weeks.

If you’ve watched how McMillan orchestrated the Indiana Pacers’ offense in his previous stop, you can tell he likes running players off down screens and pin downs. A player that thrived off of those plays was Doug McDermott.

These plays have allowed Bogdanovic to finally move without the ball, and it’s something he looks comfortable doing.

In these two clips, Bogdanovic finds different ways to free himself from the defender. In the first video, he uses a head fake to throw off the defender and then runs across the pin down into an open three. In the second video, he creates contact with the defender first, goes inside the first screen, outside the second, and spots up for an open three.

When you can get a 38 percent 3-point shooter in those situations, it’s going to be a good day.

If we’re going to talk about Bogdanovic being able to score on all three levels on the court, it’s only right that we show him working in the mid-range. This is a play the Atlanta Hawks like to use with Bogdanovic as he cuts across the top of the free throw line. With the right pass, he’s able to catch the ball, turn around, and take an easy elbow jumper.

Raving about his ability to move off the ball, Bogdanovic finds other ways to use the screens as well, like cutting to the basket.

Bogdanovic has shown throughout the season that he can make plays with the ball in his hands, and he may have found himself a favorite target in Clint Capela.

Once they run the pick-and-roll and Capela has the smaller defender on him, Bogdanovic instantly passes it down low. Not only does he realize Capela has the smaller defender, but he throws the pass in a way that no one can grab except him. Besides a lob dunk, this may be the easiest basket Capela can get every night.

Here’s another instance where Bogdanovic uses his quick instincts to get Capela an easy basket. When he realizes that Jaxson Hayes has committed to stopping him from driving, he throws the pass over Capela’s head where he can only get it, and it turns into an easy layup.

To put the icing on the cake, in this video Bogdanovic is working with a short clock. He drives to the lane and once Draymond Green comes over to help, he throws a short pass over Damion Lee’s head and Capela touches it in. That play sealed the game for the Hawks and showed just a few of the tricks that Bogdanovic has up his sleeves.

There was never a problem with Bogdanovic being a spot-up shooter, especially since he was making most of his shots. The problem was that the Atlanta Hawks didn’t sign him just to be that, but to be another ball-handler and playmaker that can control the offense.

He’s still a simple man, but just a simple man in a bigger role.

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